Tag Archives: succession


“That’s it?” Rose looked puzzled.  “But, I work with a bunch of engineers.  I am their manager.  The engineering team looks to me for advice, guidance and direction.  Given a problem, they look to me for the solution.  You are suggesting that I just ask questions?”

“Rose, how did you land this job as a manager of a bunch of engineers? Was it because you are so good at solving engineering problems?” I asked.

“No, I am not even an engineer, though I think I have an aptitude for it, that’s not my area of expertise.”

“Then, how did you land this job as manager of engineering?”

Rose stopped to think. “This is the third department assigned to me in as many years. The company has a trouble spot. They make me the manager. I come in and get things organized, figure out the team, who is strong, who the ringleaders are, who needs to go. For about a year, I work with the strongest team members and pick one to take my place.”

“So what’s your plan here?” I wanted to know.

“Same thing,” Rose nodded. “Get things organized, figure out the team. Pick the strongest one to replace me. It will take about a year. I have already been told not to get too comfortable, the company is already working on my next assignment.”

Identify Management Potential

Succession is not just when the CEO decides to retire to Florida. Succession happens all the time, all over the organization. Technicians become team leaders, team leaders become supervisors, supervisors become managers and managers become executive managers.

And, we are all getting older. How old will you be in five years? It’s a simple math problem, but the answer can be surprising.

We look for those team members who have matured and are ready to step up. Or do we? Most times, we wait until there is an open position and we scramble.

Often, we put together a leadership program to teach identified management skills. Should it be a matter of teaching management skills, or rather, putting people in position to identify their management potential.

I did not say give them a promotion, a raise or the corner office, because if you did that, and they failed, you would have a chocolate mess on your hands. You test people with project work.

When to Start Training for Succession

“But I was here until 10:00 last night. I am working myself to the bone and my company seems to want more. I can’t work any harder.” Victoria was tired. I could see it in her eyes, the hint of a glaze.

“What is it that your company wants more of?” I asked.

“I just don’t know. I have all the stuff I was doing before I was promoted and now I have new stuff.”

“Why are you still doing the old stuff?”

“Well, who is going to do it?” she snapped.

I paused, “As you left your old position, weren’t you supposed to train someone to take over those tasks?”

“Well, yes, I was supposed to, but there was just never any time to do that,” she said, calming down a bit.

“So, now you are in double trouble. You didn’t take the time to train someone else to do the work, so now you have even more work and less time.”

Victoria silently nodded.

“You have proved me wrong,” I said. “I always tell managers that they can never be promoted until they train someone else to take over their old job. But here, you have managed to do exactly what I said could not be done.”

Victoria started laughing. “No, I did not prove you wrong. You are still right. I have not managed this very well at all.”

“So, when should you have started to train someone to take over?” I inquired.

“The very first day on the job, of my old job. In fact, I should already be looking at my new tasks to figure out who I should be training right now.”

MoRs and Succession

Yesterday, I posted a casual conversation about something I have observed as a fatal flaw in most organizations, the flaw is failing to think forward about succession. The biggest constraint to most companies is the lack of managerial talent. We get so tied up in getting production out the door, we forget about sustaining that momentum beyond the month, the quarter, the year.

In the posted conversation, I did not specifically describe where this accountability lies, nor its mechanics. In short order, I received an email from a colleague, clarifying the situation.

“It is NOT the accountability of a manager ‘to find and build a person as your replacement’ – that is the accountability of a manager’s manager, the Manager-once-Removed (MoR). Immediate managers are to be held accountable to coach subordinate employees ‘in role.’ MoRs are to be held accountable to ‘mentor’ subordinates-once-removed (SoR) related to career planning and potential advancement. MoRs should be held accountable to

  • learn if SoRs seek advancement, and
  • judge their future potential capability to determine if one could, in fact, have the requisite capability to work at a higher level.

And the manager of MoRs should hold MoRs accountable to do this work.
Here is a diagram of those relationships.
My thanks to Kevin Earnest for paying attention and clarifying.

The Real Constraint

“I admit it. I am struggling. I feel like I am trying to ride two horses at the same time. My boss wants me to take on more responsibility, but I still have all this other work to do. He says I need to let go, but I don’t know who to get to help me.” Rachel was moving up in the organization, but needed to identify someone on her staff as an emerging manager to fill in behind.

“Rachel, you say you want this new responsibility?” I waited. Though I knew her head would say yes. “Here is a big fat secret. You will never be able to move up in this organization until you have found someone to take over what you do.

“Everyone thinks you cannot move up until you have learned a new skill, but the real constraint is below. You cannot move up until you have identified a person to take over your current responsibilities. And once you find them, you have to train them and test them.

“One of your biggest responsibilities, as a manager, is to find and build a person as your replacement. And it doesn’t happen in a week. You have to be thinking two or three years to the future.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off January 25. Pre-registration is now open.